It has been snowing a lot here in Utah this winter. This past week we had a most beautiful snow fall.
Big fluffy flakes floating, falling and finding a place of rest on a pine tree.
Here is a universal truth: Every snowflake is unique. Even Horshack from the tv show “Welcome Back Cotter” knew that.
While there are similarities, no two are alike. I started looking closely at the snowflakes as they were landing on a beautiful pine tree. I noticed when they landed softly on the pine needles, they kept their shape, form and beauty.
From a distance, it is a most beautiful sight to see the snow collecting on the trees.
But as I looked closely, I began to observe something that I would have never seen had I not taken the time to get closer.
The closer I looked, I was able to see that the longer the flakes sat there, the individual snowflakes began to melt into small drops of water. It wasn’t just one flake; it was many.
The drops then tried to cling to a pine needle in one last attempt to survive.
Then sadly, under the force of gravity, the individual drops fell to the ground and were no longer distinguishable.
They had transformed from a most beautiful and proud fluffy flake, to melting and falling to the ground, becoming lost.
Because I am an educator, I could not help but draw a parallel between what I was witnessing with the snowflakes and what I have witnessed with children in education.
Just like each snowflake is unique, so is every single child we teach.
Similar to how the snowflakes float from the sky down to the pine tree with great beauty and potential, so do our children come to us with bright eyes, open minds, eager hearts and with great excitement and capacity to learn.
And from a distance, the vision of what happens in school can be heartwarming for our children. Teachers teach, students learn, play and grow and many of them graduate and are successful.
All of that is true.
But when we look closely at individual children, we can see a different story for some of them. Unfortunately, we can see a different story for far too many of them.
We can see them melting in an environment that is not suitable for their success. Just like when the snowflakes all land on the same tree and even on the same pine needle, when some students land in the same class, the same delivery of instruction, the same sequence of curriculum, the same timing, the same assessment, they can melt, and like a drop of water falling to the ground, become lost.
They are lost for so many reasons: they may not have been equipped to learn like some of their peers, they may have difficulty with their sight, they may have challenges hearing, they may not have adequate food to eat, they may have a learning disability, they could have physical or mental disabilities, they may have different likes and dislikes, and one of the worst reasons they can get lost is they may not have a good school or even a good teacher. I know that is not a popular thing to say, but it can be true.
While from a distance we can see that many students are successful – something we should celebrate, we cannot be truly successful until we have ensured that each student who walks through our doors, is able to achieve individual success.
Just like I was observing the falling and landing of the snowflakes and them melting and dropping to the ground, I believe we must look closely at what we are doing for each child. While looking is important, it is not enough. We also need to be equipped to respond with personalized pathways for children that put them on THEIR UNIQUE road to success.
Many students will thrive in a traditional learning setting. Many will not. Some thrive with direct instruction. Some thrive with hands-on learning. Some thrive working on real-world projects. Some thrive in small or individual settings. Some thrive with self-paced online learning. Some thrive in blended learning environments. Some thrive with combinations of the above. Some thrive in ways that we have not yet discovered.
My purpose of writing this is to encourage all of us to look closer. Even closer. And closer some more!
We need to look closer at our students to truly know them and we must look closer at ourselves and ask if we are really providing pathways and opportunities that help each child thrive or have we unfortunately made decisions based upon reasons that do not relate to students succeeding.
The snow is gently falling again. Students are going to keep coming into your schools. Let’s work together to give them a chance to thrive on the pine needle in their own special way and let’s prevent them from falling to the ground and getting lost.
Let me know if you would like to discuss further.